Be Your Brother's Keeper

Are you your brother's keeper? What does God expect of us and what do we need to do?

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Adam and Eve had the first two children. Some will say, "Maybe Abel was not the second," so I'm not trying to be specific. But it only mentions Cain and Abel. They had the first two children – Cain and Abel. Let's take a look at that account, because one turned out…well, tried to turn out well, and the other didn't turn out so well. In Genesis, chapter 4, verses 8 and 9, we read this account, written in the first five books of the Bible, called the Book of Moses The Law of Moses . Genesis 4, and verse 8….

Remember Cain and Abel came to give God an offering. And God accepted Abel's offering, but He did not accept Cain's. And Cain was mad. It says that in verse 6:

Genesis:4:6 And the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you wroth?" – Why are you mad? – "Why has your countenance fallen?" You know how, when people get mad, you can just see it in their faces. He was mad. And in verse 8:

Genesis:4:8 And Cain talked with Abel – probably still mad – his brother, and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. He killed him! In his anger, he killed his only brother. The first two children – if they were the first two – one was a delinquent and the other was dead.

Genesis:4:9 And then God said to Cain – sometimes we think that God does not see what we do – the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel, your brother?" And he said, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

I want to share a couple of other translations. Most of the translations – the New King James…I'm reading out old King James, but I'm modernizing it as I go along. But let me read to you just a couple of other translation. Most of the ordinary translations use the same thing – "Am I my brother's keeper."

Here's from Today's English Version – it puts this way: The LORD asked Cain, "Where is your brother, Abel?" And he answered, "I don't know. Am I supposed to take care of my brother?" That's how he answered in this particular one. Most of the others just say, "Am I my brother's keeper?" One of them said, "Am I supposed to look after everything he does?"

Are you your brother's keeper? As our students – our graduates – depart – some to Europe, some to the northwest, some to the southeast, some to the northeast, some to the south, some to the north, and some to Texas (chuckles). As they depart and go their way – graduate or member – we need to be our brother's keeper. If you want a title: Be Your Brother's Keeper.

Let's look at some who were keepers of their brothers. Let's look at some who weren't. And then, let's see what God expects of us. And let's see what we need to do for our brothers and sisters.

In Genesis 33, verses 1 to 11, we see the story of Esau and Jacob. Now, remember in chapters 25 to 27, which I'm not going to read…but in chapters 25-27, Jacob got the best of his brother, didn't he? First of all, he had him sell his birthright to give him some lentil soup, and then he stole the final blessing that he was supposed to receive as the firstborn, as a final blessing from his dad. So he and his mother connived and he was able to steal that blessing. And, of course, what did his brother say? His brother said, "I'm going to kill him! But I won't do it while Dad is still alive. As soon as Dad dies, he's toast! That's it!" And, of course, as gossip goes, one of the servants heard that, ran and told Rebekah, and Rebekah said, "Quick, pack your things and go to Syria, where Uncle Laban lives." So Jacob packed his things up and went to Syria to flee from his brother.

After many years of being there – and Jacob got taken advantage of, too, as you know the story – where he worked seven years for Rachel and he was given Leah instead. And then he ended up having two handmaids and all the fighting that went on there – and all the intrigue.

But on his way back – he decided it was time for him and Laban to separate, now that he had lots of sheep and lots of cattle to take back with him – and so on his way back, he had to pass through Esau country – not Marlborough country, but Esau country – and he was thinking, "I wonder what's going to happen to me now?" So we see that account in Genesis 33.

Genesis:33:1 Jacob lifted up eyes, and he looked, and behold, Esau came with four hundred men. He didn't come alone. It was kind of menacing. If you've seen any movies, you see the wagon train going, and all of a sudden, at the top of this mesa, or the top of this mountain, all of a sudden, appear a whole band of Indians, ready to come down and take them on. They're menacing just to look at them and see them. And I can imagine what it would have been like for Jacob and his family coming along, and all of a sudden, he sees these four hundred men waiting with Esau to come down. And he divided the children to Leah, and to Rachel, and to the two handmaids. And he put the two handmaids and their children foremost. So he put most expendible to the least expendible. The ones he didn't mind losing…maybe they'll get tired killing and they'll leave Rachel and Joseph and Benjamin. So he put the handmaids in front, then Leah and her children, and then, finally, Rachel and Joseph – the real wife that he wanted and his son – his only son – from her at that time. And he passed over before them, and he bowed himself to the ground seven times until he came near to his brother. He's showing a lot of sycophantish behavior. And Esau ran to meet him – probably with his sword on, or in his scaber or whatever – came running to meet him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Now, as the story goes, he forgave his brother. He said, "It's okay. I know I wanted to kill you before, but it's okay. You'll be safe." He didn't want to take the goods that were offered to him. He said, "That's okay."

What a blessing! Here was a brother…here was Jacob, who was not his brother's keeper. He was his brother's conniver and he did all he could to take away from him. And here was Esau, who had a change of heart. Now, as you know, the story goes, probably, Esau told his kids, "I know, I forgave Uncle Jacob, but you watch out for that guy. He probably taught his family to be like him." So you had a lot of raging trouble between Edomites and Israelites after that. But, at that time, he was his brother's keeper and he let him go. In verse 11, he says:

Genesis:33:11 Take, I pray you, my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him and he took it. So Esau didn't even want to take what was given to him, but he finally decided, "Okay, I'll take it."

Now, another example of a brother…so that was a pretty good brother – Esau. Jacob wasn't such a good brother – took advantage of his brother, didn't he? Another example is Joseph.

One of my favorite biblical characters…and I always liked Joseph, even though my baptism – my Arabic baptism – name was Joseph. But I didn't even know that for years. I like Joseph. I like the demeanor. I like the spunk that he had. I like the openness that he had. He got in trouble with his openness. But I like Joseph.

So, in chapter 37, you're familiar with the fact his dad gave him this coat and gave him responsibility. Dad kept him near and had him go check on his brothers to see how they were doing – if they were doing a good job or not. And, in Genesis 37, and verse 18, it says…he sent him out to check on his brothers.

Genesis:37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near, they conspired against him to kill him. Can you imagine just wanting to kill your brother? Well, we already know that Cain did. They wanted to kill him – verse 18.

Verse 24 – I'm just picking out the story, before I read you how it turns out.

Genesis:37:24 They took him and they cast him into a pit. Remember, Reuben saved him, because they wanted to kill him. "Nah, nah, let's not do that. Let's just throw him in a pit and let him die there. That way we don't have blood on our hands. We won't know what happened to him. We can tell Dad we don't know what really happened to him." And Reuben was going to go back and rescue him. Reuben, the oldest, was trying to bring some sanity to the situation.  But verse 24 – They took him and they cast him into a pit. The pit was empty and there was no water in it. So they figured, "That's good! That'll work."

Then, of course, you have verses 26 and 27 – Judah comes in with, "Let's make some money off of this. We don't want to just let this guy…" He wanted to sell him and make some money.

Genesis:37:26 Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it if we slay him and conceal his blood? Let's just sell him to the Ismaelites and let not our hand be upon him, for he's our brother ," after all. "I mean, we don't want to kill him. We'll just sell him! We're better than that. We're better than killing. We'll just sell him and he's gone!" What a nice attitude! And his brothers were content . "Yeah, that's a good idea. Okay. Rah, rah!" And so they sold him. They sold him – they all agreed.

Verses 28 and 29:

Genesis:37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen, and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.

What would you have thought, if you had been the brother – to see your eleven brothers turn on you and throw you in the pit? You're coming out there, happily, with your brightly colored coat on. And as you come out there, you're not going to tell them any more dreams. You've already learned your lesson. But you're coming out there to check on them, and say, "Dad wanted to know, how are the sheep? Do you still have a hundred sheep, or did you lose one or two, like you normally do? Dad wants me to check with you." And the first thing he does, he encounters hostility, and they grab him, and they throw him into this pit. And then you take it and set off with a bunch of foreigners as a slave. As a slave, what would you have felt like? They sold him.

Genesis:37:29 And Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit. And he tore his clothes. He was upset at what happened.

Joseph was hated by his brothers. You have to say, they were not their brother's keeper, were they? The story goes on. He was at the slave mart, and he was bought by Potiphar. Can you imagine not knowing who was going to take you? Was it going to be a kind person – a kind master – or a horrible master? And he's taken by Potiphar.

He did so well that Potiphar put him over his entire house – a slave looking after the entire household. And, of course, Potiphar's wife tried to make a play for him and he ran out. Then she accused him and he gets thrown into prison. So, while he's in prison – Genesis 39, and verse 20:

Genesis:39:20 And Joseph's master took and put him in prison – a place where the king's prisoners were bound – and he was there in the prison. So any of the king's prisoners went to this place to keep an eye on them. But God was with him. God was with him in all this.

Genesis:39:23 And the keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under Joseph's hand, because the LORD was with him. So, in prison, now, Joseph is now in charge. And that which he did, the LORD made to prosper.

Chapter 40, and verse 20 – there are dreams that the butler and the baker had. And Joseph interprets the dream, with God's help and God's assistance. So, in chapter 40, and verse 20:

Genesis:40:20 And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast to all his servants. And he lifted up the head of chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler, but he hanged – verse 22 – the chief baker, just as Joseph had said.

Now, the chief butler – verse 23 – of chapter 40:

Genesis:40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Two years – according to some of the commentaries – went by. But then, what happened? The king had a dream – the Pharaoh. Nobody could interpret it – nobody. He called all the astrologers – every one – the wise men. Nobody could interpret the dream for him. Then the chief butler remembered. Notice verse 12 of chapter 41.

Genesis:41:12- And there was there with us a young man – a Hebrew – and he could interpret dreams.

So they sent for Joseph. Joseph told him about the years of famine coming and told him what he needed to do and what it all meant. And, because of that, Joseph becomes vice-Pharaoh.

Genesis:41:39 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Forasmuch as God has showed you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are. God is on your side" – maybe he, "The gods are on your side." The Bible says, "God." "God is on your side. I can't ask for anybody better. You've got wisdom. You've got knowledge. And I want you to be vice-Pharaoh."

Genesis:41:40 "You shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled. Only in the throne will I be greater than you. Only because I'm king will I have more power than you." This for a slave boy? This boy is taken down and now he's vice-Pharaoh.

You know the story. Chapter 45 – Joseph's brothers come down looking for food, because famine in the Middle was heavy. "Hey, there's lots of food in Egypt. Let's go down there." They have no idea that this is their brother. He's probably clean-shaven. He's probably wearing Egyptian outfits. And his brothers have no idea…because you don't think of that. Sometimes you're walking along, and you might walk right past a church member at a store, because you're not thinking they're going to be at this store – same place you are. You might walk right past them and not even know they're there. They're not thinking about whether their brother…their thinking he may have gone somewhere else, or maybe, even dead. So chapter 45, and verse 1:

Genesis:45:1 Then Joseph could not – they came down and Joseph saw them, and he played some games with them to see what they would do – see if they were faithful to look after their younger brother and to see their attitudes. Chapter 45 - Then Joseph could not – verse 1 – refrain himself from all of them that stood by him. And he cried. "Cause every man to go out from me!" And there stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. Every time he would see them he would have to go to another room and cry because he was so happy to see his brothers – the same brothers who sold him! And he wept – verse 2 – aloud. And the Egyptians the house of Pharaoh heard. He was crying so loudly they could hear even out of the room. And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph. Does my father yet live? Is Dad still alive? " And his brothers could not answer him, for they were troubled at his presence. They couldn't say a word.

Genesis:45:4 Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I beg you – I ask you." And they came near to him. "I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt." Now how would you feel? Most people, how would they feel? "Yeah, I'm in charge here and I can take out wrath upon you very easily! See all these guards, standing there with their spears? I can take you down!" That wasn't his attitude. Notice what he said. "Now therefore, don't be grieved nor angry with yourselves – don't beat yourselves up for what you did – that you sold me here – for God did send me before you to preserve life."

You know, when you're in prison, I guess you do a lot of thinking about life, about meaning and purpose, about yourself. He came to the conclusion because he saw all the blessings that came his way, and the blessing he was to the Egyptians, now the blessing he could be to his family, and it didn't even bother him that his brothers treated him so rottenly – it didn't even bother him.

Genesis:45:6 "These two years has the famine been in the land, and yet there are five more to go in which there shall neither earing or harvest – no planting or harvest – and God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God. It's okay. Don't beat yourselves up. Don't be worried. I have a different perspective on this." You know, that's a beautiful thing about us as human beings. You can look at things in different ways, can't you? And he did. He was able to look at it and see…instead of getting bitter and wrathful, he was able to look at it in a different way and see it. So he says, "It was God that sent me here, and He made me a father to Pharaoh" – so maybe Pharaoh was younger and he was guiding him – "and lord of all of his house and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt – gave me all this power that I can help people." He said, "Hurry now, and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son, Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down and don't wait. And you shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me – you and your children, and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds and all that you have. And there I will nourish you – I'll take care of you – for there are yet five years of famine – lest you and your household come to poverty. If you stay where you are, you'll be poor and have nothing. Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaks unto you. Look how similar I am to Benjamin. I don't look like an Egyptian. Look and see and see that it's my mouth that speaks to you. And you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and all that you have seen. And you shall haste – go quickly – and bring down my father here." And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck – his real brother – not half-brother, but his real brother – and he wept. And Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover, he kissed all of his brethren.

I would have to say that Joseph was a good brothers' keeper, wouldn't you? Oh, that we could have some of those attitudes.

It's interesting – in chapter 50…of course, his father comes down, and he sees his father, and he's so thrilled to see him. But in chapter 50, his father dies. Chapter 50 of Genesis and verse 15:

Genesis:50:15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, "Joseph will peradventure hate us and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did to him. See how their judging him according to their lack of brotherhood? They're judging Joseph on this. And they sent a message to Joseph saying, "Your father did command, before he died, saying, ‘So shall you say to Joseph, "Forgive, I beg you now the trespass of your brothers and their sin, for they did to you evil. And now we beg you to forgive the trespass of your servants of the God of your father."'" And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. And his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we be your servants." And Joseph said to them, "Don't fear, for am I in the place of God? Am I the one who reckons? No. God will."

I've often told some people, "To forgive somebody, even though they didn't repent to them." But I said, "Because you forgive them, it doesn't mean that God forgives them." If they have done wrong, and not repented of it, there's a God in heaven who is still going to require it of them. But you don't have to carry that burden anymore. You can unload it."

Genesis:50:20 "But as for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." So he said, "Don't be afraid" – verse 21 – "for I will nourish you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

I would say Joseph was his brothers' keeper. I can give you another example – Moses.

Moses did wrong, according to his brother and sister – Miriam and Aaron. That's found in Numbers 12, but I won't read it. They were against Moses. "Moses married this woman." "We're just as good as Moses is. God speaks by us, too." "I play my tambourine and He speaks to me every so often, and I dance around, and He likes that, and I'm just as good as Moses." And God appeared, and said, "Whoa! Come out here, you. Come out here. See, if there's a prophet – a normal guy out there – I speak to him in visions and dreams. Moses I spoke to face-to-face. How dare you do that to my servant!" And though Moses sinned – or did wrong in their eyes – I won't say he sinned, but he did wrong in their eyes – married a woman who was not an Israelitish woman – He said, "Moses is the meekest man on the face of the earth." Remember, meekness is a choice to be humble, kind. "How dare you pick on him! For this, you're going to be punished." So Miriam stretched out her hand and He cursed her with leprosy.

Now, who became the brother's keeper – or the sister's keeper? Moses. "God, please don't do this to her. Please don't do this to them." And God said, "Look, if she had done this – spit in the face of her dad, or whatever – wouldn't he have punished her somewhat?" So God did punish her, but He didn't punish her permanently. She did not have leprosy for the rest of her life, because she had a brother named, Moses, who was his sister's keeper. He intervened for Aaron, too.

What kind of a brother are you? Let's take a look at some general comments about some general scriptures about brother keepers. Philippians 2, verse 3. If you're going to be a brother keeper, do you know what you have to have for your brother? Respect.

Philippians 2:3 – Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem the other better than themselves. "You first." "No, you first." "You first." "No, you first." The attitude of preferring someone else, instead of yourself. We saw that in the life of Joseph. We saw that in the life of Esau, too, because Esau could have been really mad for what was done to him. But he didn't take it out.

Philippians 2:4 – Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others. Be concerned about others' needs, not just your own. And how easy it is for us to project onto others what's going on with us – what our attitudes might be. How easy that is!

Let's look at Romans, chapter 12, for just another general comment, because I want to bring it down – in the next fifteen or twenty minutes – to what you may do when your near – for the students – and when you're afar. Because there are ways to be your brother's keeper when you're near and when you're afar. Let's look, first of all, at Romans, chapter 12 – just some general principles. I'm going to show you some negatives, as well. These are positives.

Romans:12:9 Let love be without pretense. Abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good.

Romans:12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love. In Hebrews, do you know what it says – Hebrews:13:1? Let brotherly love continue. Don't you dare stop it! Verse 10 – Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another. "You first." "Me first." "I'll suffer wrong, rather than you." Verses 15 and 16:

Romans:12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice. Weep with them that weep. Can you feel for your brother? Can you feel for your sister? Verse 16 – Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't mind high things, but condescend to men of low estate. So, if somebody comes to you, you must say, "You must think I'm of low estate, right? You're visiting me." No, it doesn't mean that. It means that you don't have to always be trying to find, "Where's the power here?" – spelling out the power. You don't have to do that. Condescend to men of low estate – anybody. Be not wise in your own conceits. Don't be conceited. Don't be smug. "I know better than anybody else. Nobody's as good as me."

In John:13:35, Jesus Christ said this of all of us in the church. This applies to members and students. Students, particularly, if you're going to stay in touch – if you're going to keep close, though you are apart – there are ways to do it. And a lot of these attitudes have to be there.

John:13:35 – famous scripture that Jesus Christ said:

John:13:35 By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another. And what is love? Outgoing concern. It's thinking about the other person, too. It's not just thinking about them and you don't matter. That's not what God asks of you or me. Because, frankly, if you don't think you matter, you'll never think anybody else matters either. You'll either be a sycophant to them – you'll either bow and scrape as long they're around – but you will not deal with them straight up, if you don't have a proper respect for yourself, too. It never tells you, "Love others and forget yourself." He says, "Love others as yourself." And, if you don't have an appreciation for who you are, you can't appreciate others genuinely. So He says, By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love – a Godly love – one for another.

Now there are some negatives – some things you should be aware of. When you're close to people, here's what happens – Romans, chapter 14, and verse 4. Do you know what? When you're around people a lot, it's easy to judge them, and, frankly, it's easy to mis judge them. And frankly, many of us are way too much in judging. We almost come to what's called judgmental . We become judgmental.  That means I'm looking to find fault. I'm just looking out there to find fault. We call all find fault. If you want to get a magnifying glass and start going around checking…"Oh, that has a little spot on it. You probably didn't know that was there, but I saw it." Maybe some little coffee stain dropped on it and it doesn't look bad to anybody, but there it is! If you want to go around and find…if you want to be judgmental, that's looking for fault. What is life about if you're always looking for fault? Unhappy. So we find in Romans 14, and verse 4:

Romans:14:4 Who are you that judges another man's servant? Who are you? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand. Who do you think you are? That's God's servant over there, not yours! It's God's servant. Who are you that judges another man's servant? It's so easy because we get close. And it's easy. It's easy, also, to gossip.

Proverbs, chapter 16:28. Again, do you want to be close? Do you want to be your brother's keeper? Don't gossip about him.

Proverbs:16:28 A forward man – a person who is not on the up-and-up – sows strife. And a whisperer separates chief friends. A whisperer separates chief friends.

Proverbs:17:9 He that covers a transgression seeks love, but he that repeats a matter separates very friends. When you know people and are around people a lot, it's easy to gossip about them. It's easy to do it. We all do it. And we all have to repent. It's not a good thing to do. God says, "If you do it, you separate friends." That's a negative.

There are times that you need to settle with people. 1 Thessalonians 5, and verse 14. You need to help your brother. That's not a pleasant thing. In 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 14, we read this:

1 Thessalonians:5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all. Warn the unruly! If you're going to be your brother's keeper, sometimes you have to say, "Do you know what? You've had like two drinks tonight. Don't you think that's enough? You're my brother. I love you." Are you your brother's keeper?

Is your way of being your brother's keeper to give him a good push as he's about to go over the edge – so he goes a little faster? Or would you try to stop his wagon before it goes over the cliff? He may not like it. He may be having fun riding toward the edge of the cliff and he doesn't know there's a cliff. And when you grab that wagon, he may say, "Whoa! What are you doing to me?" You just stopped him from disaster. Do you help your brother? Or do you pat him on the back and give him a little push as he goes down that way? If you're going to be your brother's keeper, sometimes it takes tough love. Sometimes you have to say to him, "Hey, you know what? You need to straighten up?" "Do you know what? You need to do it this way." "Do you know what? I'm concerned for you. I love you. I'm concerned." Are you your brother's keeper? Sometimes you have to be tough.

James 2 – do not play favorites. James 2, verse 1. Do not play favorites.

James:2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. Do not shade judgment because you like somebody better than someone else! Do not. For if there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, goodly apparel, and there comes somebody else in vile raiment – not nearly so nicely dressed – and you say to the person who is nicely dressed, "We have a really nice seat for you!" Oh you, you with the vile raiment, "I think we may have a seat over there under the footstool, which is really on the floor." How can you get under a footstool? Sit on the floor. "We have a place for you over there – on the floor."

And he says to them – verses 8 and 9:

James:2:8 If you fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. But, if you respect persons, you commit sin and are convicted of the law as transgressors. So again, God says, "No favoritism! Do not play favorites. Do not shade judgment because you like someone better than someone else."

Now we are exhorted to add brotherly kindness to one of the ladders as we go. 2 Peter, chapter 1, talks about the ladders to eternal life – they're a list of virtues. And next to the last one is brotherly love. The church of Philadelphia – Philadel phia . Philadel phia means you love your brother. Brotherly love – different from agape love – but brotherly love. He says we need to have – that's 2 Peter:1:7 – I'm not going to go there. But I will go to Hebrews 3, verses 12 and 13, because this is a positive one. It does say, "Exhort," here.

Are you encouraging of your brother? I had a letter from a person that I write about every two weeks. They're in a pretty difficult place – in fact, a very difficult place. They started off, "Thank you for your letter. It means the world to me to get a letter from you. It means the world." I write her every two weeks. I write some. My wife writes some. We send it off. Do you encourage your brother and sister? Are you your brother's keeper?

Hebrews:3:12-13 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in  departing from the living God. If you see somebody going down the wrong path, if you see somebody thinking wrongly, sit down with them, say, "Hey, tell me more about this. Let's talk about this. Are you open to using the scriptures to help you? Are you open to me guiding you? Your thinking is a little bit off here. I'm your brother. I care about you." Verse 13 – But exhort one another…. Now that word, exhort , I'd like to share with you, because I looked it up, and that word is parakaleo , and that has to do with…let me make sure I get the right one here. Yes, 3870 – parakaleo – and it does mean to call near, to invite, to invoke, implore, console, beseech, call for, comfort, desire, entreat, pray. It doesn't mean belt! "Belt him a good one! That'll help him!" It means to encourage. Let me share with you how it's translated by others – other translations. New American Standard Version says this: But encourage – verse 13 of Hebrews 3 – but encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Encourage each other.

This is how the Amplified Version put it: But instead – verse 13 – but instead, warn, admonish, urge and encourage one another every day, as long as it's called today, that none of you may be hardened into settled rebellion by the deceitfulness of sin. He said: … by the fraudulence, the stratagem and the trickery, which is the delusive glamor of the sin, may play on his part. It says to admonish, urge and encourage.

The Living Bible puts it this way: Speak to each other about these things every day, while there is still time, so that none of you will become hardened against God, blinded by the glamor of sin.

Today's English Version puts it this way: Instead – he says – that none of you be deceived by sin and become stubborn, you must help one another every day, as long as the word today, in the scripture, applies to us. Help each other every day.

Do you help people? Do you help your brother? What may we do? What may we do to be our brother's keeper?

I have a wonderful story here. It's not necessarily true, but it's a legend. It comes from the Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations. And this is number 3214, by Lee Tan.

There a beautiful Hebrew legend of two brothers, who lived side by side on adjoining lands. One was the head of a large family and the other lived alone. One night the former – the one who lived with a large family – lay awake and thought, "My brother lives alone. He has not the companionship of wife and children to cheer his heart as I have. While he sleeps, I'll carry some of my sheaves – some of my produce – from my side and I'll  put it in his field." At the same hour, the other brother reasoned, "My brother has a large family and his necessities are greater than mine. As he sleeps, I'll put some of my sheaves – my produce – on his side of the field." Thus the two brothers went out, each carrying out his purposes, and each laden with sheaves – with their produce – and they met at the dividing line. And there they embraced.  Years later – this legend – at the very place stood the Jerusalem temple, and on the very spot of their meeting, the temple's altar.

Isn't that beautiful? The two brothers – even in this legend – both were doing what? Thinking of the other person. They were their brother's keeper.

So, how can you be your brother's keeper? I mentioned Hebrews 13, 1 and 2, says, "Hey, let brotherly love continue." And do you know what it says – Hebrews 2? Don't forget to entertain strangers. And I put it this way: Don't forget to entertain. Don't forget to be nice. Don't forget to hang out with your brother. "Hang out" – I don't normally hang out. I visit, but I know the young people hang out, so don't forget to hang out with your brothers and sisters. Hang out with them. Fellowship with them – 1 John 1, verse 3 – our fellowship is with God the Father and with Jesus Christ, His Son – but when we come together, the reason that we can fellowship with each other is because we all fellowship with God. You can fellowship. Do you spend time with your brothers and sisters? That's positive.

One example is in Luke, chapter 10, verse 30. And when you're near – this is for people that are near – you can hang out, you can spend time with them, you could be around them, you could make an appointment for lunch, you could make an appointment for dinner, you can plan to see them, go to a movie after Sabbath, you could plan to just sit down and talk and have a coffee, you can just have water and popcorn – it doesn't cost much – especially if you buy it on sale – a big bag of popcorn – stale, but it's okay. Give lots of water. They won't notice.  (Laughter)

Luke, chapter 10, and verse 30 – this is a wonderful example, because Jesus Christ gave the parable, The Good Samaritan, because He was trying to teach them who is a brother, who is a neighbor.

Luke:10:30 Jesus answering said, "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among the thieves, who stripped him of his raiment – his clothes – and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance, there came down a certain priest that way and when he saw him, he passed on the other side – ‘I don't have time for this guy. He's a mess anyway and I don't want to get my clothes all dirty.' Likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and he looked on him – at least he came closer – and he passed on the other side – ‘I don't want to get involved.' And then, a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed where he was, he saw him and he had compassion on him." What's the key? Care. The other two cared for themselves. They didn't care about the wounded person. "And he went to him and he bound up his wounds" – did his best to stop – "pouring on oil and wine, and he set him on his own beast" – imagine, he'd have to walk and let the other man ride – "and brought him to an inn" – took care of him! That's what brothers do. That's what sisters do. "And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pennies and gave them to the host" – let's see, it'll buy two pieces of bubble gum, so it's not much today; but anyway, back then, two pennies, I guess, would have bought something – "and he said, ‘Whatever you spend more, when I come back, I'll pay you." He took care of his brother.

Luke:10:36 " Which now of these three do you think was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He that showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go you and do likewise." Brothers show mercy. Brothers show kindness, care and concern.

Galatians:6:10 says:

Galatians:6:10 Do good to all men, but especially to those of the household of faith.

And it says, "Don't be afraid to bear somebody else's burden for them" – Galatians:6:2. Do you bear people's burdens?

Hebrews:10:24 – you know, when you do something good for others, you can actually provoke them to do the same for other people. One of the first sermonettes I ever gave – back in 1962 – was Hebrews:10:24 – provoke others to love by you being loving yourself.

Hebrews:10:24 Let's consider one another, to provoke, to love and to good works. Because, you see, if others see you do it – that's where example comes in – if others see you care, they may not care back to you, but they may care for others. And when they care for others, what got passed on? The love of God, didn't it? That's what counts.

So, when you're near, spend time with a person, hang out, reinforce them, encourage them, call them, spend time with them, fellowship.

Now, what happens when you're afar? Because, again, some are going…Derek's to Holland, or The Netherlands, others are going to the northwest, some are going to Minnesota – north – some are going down south – Adrian – some are going to Texas – Janet – some are going to the northeast – Josh. (Chuckles) We feel sad for you going to Vermont, but that's okay. (Laugher) Please, people from Vermont, don't turn off your Webcast because I said…I'm teasing, okay? People are going to the southwest. People are going home. Don't forget them. And, if they're afar, you can still text. I don't text very well. My fingers always hit two or three keys at the same time, and I end up erasing more than I put out. But you can text, you can email, you can call, you can write.

Proverbs 25, verse 25. How good is it to get a letter from afar? When I was in college, the only way my mother could communicate with me – because we didn't want to run up huge phone bills at that time, calling across the country. I don't think I did more than once or twice the whole time I was in college in Pasadena. Phone calls cost too much and I didn't have access to a phone.  We didn't have cell phones back then – they weren't invented yet. That shows you how old I am. But boy, did I love getting a letter from my parents. And every so often, my mother would tuck in ten dollars, which was the world to me, because we barely paid our bills, and ate at the student center, and didn't have much extra. So she'd tuck in a ten dollar bill, or a twenty dollar bill, occasionally. That was really rare. Chapter 25, verse 25 – it says:

Proverbs:25:25 As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.

Don't forget those people who are afar. Don't forget how much they will appreciate hearing from you – a letter, a call.

Malachi:3:16 puts it this way:

Malachi:3:16 They that feared the LORD spoke often one to another, and the LORD listened, and heard. You know it reminds me of? When Job forgave his friends, God said, "I will bless you now." Was God listening? Yeah. When Job forgave his friends, God said, " Now , I'm going to bless you." They that feared the LORD spoke often one to another, and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD and that thought on His name. What were they doing? Because they feared Him and thought on His name, they were helping each other. They were serving each other. They were encouraging each other. And again, a good word – a word in due season – how good it is. We can do that.

I want to share with you a poem. This is so true. It says: Those We Love – this I number 3215, by the way – Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations , by Lee Tan.

They say the world is round,

And yet I often think it's square.

So many little hurts we get

From corners here and there.

But there's one truth in life I've found,

While journeying east and west.

The only folks we really wound

Are those we love the best.

We flatter those we scarcely know,

We please the fleeting guest,

And deal full many a thoughtless blow

To those we love the best.

Sometimes we hurt people we're close to, don't we? They're around. I might as well pick on them. They're here. Might as well take out my ire, take out my wrath, take out my frustration.They're here. They can take it. We would think  of treating a fleeting guest that way, would we?

Pray for each other. Talk to each other graciously. I could give you scriptures on all these, but I'm not. Don't forget to forgive others. Don't forget to walk with humility, kindness, love and peace. Those are all found in Colossians:3:12 to 15. Don't forget to offer comfort to those who hurt.

It's in your hands. Will you be a brother who's a keeper of your brother? Or will you be a brother who is a destroyer of your brother?

I'll leave you with David and Jonathan. David and Jonathan had a relationship. David was a lot younger than Jonathan, but Jonathan saw in David amazing qualities. And he must have known that David was already anointed to be king. But David would not be presumptuous and try to take the office himself. And Saul knew this was an up-and-coming guy. The people loved him. So Saul did his best to put him down. Frankly, he did his best to try to kill him. And Jonathan was constantly looking out for his brother, David. And in chapter 20 – 1 Samuel 20 – and verse 17 – next to the last scripture:

1 Samuel:20:17 And Jonathan caused David to swear again – Old Testament, they did swear; New Testament, we're not supposed to – because he loved him, for he loved him as he loved his own life. He put his life on the line, too, didn't he, because he would tell what his dad was trying to do and angle to get David. He would come and tell David about it. If his dad knew that, he would be guilty of treason. He put his life on the line for his brother. He loved his brother. They weren't related, but he was his brother. He was his brother's keeper.

Matthew 25 – when Jesus Christ comes back, He's going to separate the sheep from the goats, and what's the distinguishing factor? "You see, when I was hungry, you fed Me. When I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink," Jesus Christ said. And when I was in prison, you visited Me." And they said, "When did we do all of this?" Jesus Christ said, "When you did it to one of these, the least of My brethren, you did to Me."

When you are your brother's keeper, you are on your way to eternal life. When you are your brother's keeper, you're helping them on the way to eternal life. It is a life and death matter, so said 1 John 3, and verse 14, where he brings up the story again…let's read this last scripture.  1 John 3 and let's back it up to verse 11. This is my concluding scripture. And I'm sorry for taking you a little bit overtime. I like to end early, but I didn't today.

1 John:3:11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain – remember how we started out – not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. Why did he slay him? Because his own works were evil and his brother's were righteous. But marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you. Do you think you're going to find a lot of comfort in the world? Do you think you're going to find a lot of brother-keepers out there? They might be nice to you for awhile. They might be nice to you for a reason – an ulterior reason. Will they care for you with Godly love? I doubt it. Verse 14:

1 John:3:14 We know that we have passed – or better rendering, are passing from death to life, because we love the brothers. He that loves not his brother, abides in death. It is a life and death matter.

So let's be brother-keepers. Let's help them on the road to eternal life. And at the same time, we will have eternal life, too.


KARS's picture

Thank you for this Sabbath lesson. I understand alot of this.

Sabrina Peabody

Sabrina Peabody's picture

Hi c_miller,
"What should one do when we see there are members that really need ones help and others just sit back and do nothing but negative talk?"

My thought to you is to be the example. Be the one that continues to help and stay in touch with those who cannot make it to church or are in need. Do not get discouraged when you do good. Perhaps you can talk to other members about those who need more visiting and cards and get something organized?

Let me quote part of what he said above:
– Let's consider one another, to provoke, to love and to good works. Because, you see, if others see you do it – that's where example comes in – if others see you care, they may not care back to you, but they may care for others. And when they care for others, what got passed on? The love of God, didn't it? That's what counts."

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